The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings

4.2 565
by Sue Monk Kidd
     
 

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From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women
 
 
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the

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Overview

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women
 
 
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/21/2013
Sarah and Handful Grimké split the narration in Kidd’s third novel, set in pre–Civil War Charleston, S.C., and along an abolitionist lecture circuit in New England. Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) is no stranger to strong female characters. Here, her inspiration is the real Sarah Grimké, daughter of an elite Charleston family, who fought for abolition and women’s rights. Handful, Kidd’s creation, is Sarah’s childhood handmaid. The girls are friends. Sarah teaches Handful to read, and proclaims loudly at dinner that she opposes slavery. However, after being severely punished, she abandons her aspirations—for decades. Time passes, and Handful is given the freedoms she was formerly denied. The book’s scope of 30-plus years contributes to a feeling of plodding in the middle section. Particularly insufferable is the constant allusion, by both women, to a tarnished button that symbolizes perseverance. But Kidd rewards the patient reader. Male abolitionists, preachers, and Quakers repeatedly express sexist views, and in this context, Sarah’s eventual outspokenness is incredibly satisfying to read. And Handful, after suffering a horrific punishment, makes an invaluable contribution to an attempted slave rebellion. Bolstered by female mentors, Kidd’s heroines finally act on Sarah’s blunt realization: “We can do little for the slave as long as we’re under the feet of men.” Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, WME Entertainment. (Jan.)
Library Journal
★ 11/01/2013
Women played a large role in the fledgling abolitionist movement preceding the Civil War by several decades but were shushed by their male compatriots if they pointed out their own subservient status. One of several recent novels noting the similarity between women having few rights and slaves having none in the pre-Civil War American South (others include Marlen Suyapa Bodden's The Wedding Gift and Jessica Maria Tuccelli's Glow), Monk's (The Secret Life of Bees) compelling work of historical fiction stands out from the rest because of its layers of imaginative details of the lives of actual abolitionists from Charleston, SC—Sarah and Angelina Grimké—and Handful, a young slave in their family home. With her far more desperate desire for freedom, Handful steals the story from the two freethinking sisters while they wrestle with their consciences for years, still bound by society's strictures. VERDICT This richly imagined narrative brings both black history and women's history to life with an unsentimental story of two women who became sisters under the skin—Handful, a slave in body whose mind roves freely and widely, and "owner" Sarah, whose mind is shackled by family and society. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/13.]—Laurie Cavanaugh, Holmes P.L., Halifax, MA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-05
Kidd (The Mermaid Chair, 2005, etc.) hits her stride and avoids sentimental revisionism with this historical novel about the relationship between a slave and the daughter of slave owners in antebellum Charleston. Sarah Grimké was an actual early abolitionist and feminist whose upbringing in a slaveholding Southern family made her voice particularly controversial. Kidd re-imagines Sarah's life in tandem with that of a slave in the Grimké household. In 1803, 11-year-old Sarah receives a slave as her birthday present from her wealthy Charleston parents. Called Hetty by the whites, Handful is just what her name implies--sharp tongued and spirited. Precocious Sarah is horrified at the idea of owning a slave but is given no choice by her mother, a conventional Southern woman of her time who is not evil but accepts slavery (and the dehumanizing cruelties that go along with it) as a God-given right. Soon, Sarah and Handful have established a bond built on affection and guilt. Sarah breaks the law by secretly teaching Handful to read and write. When they are caught, Handful receives a lashing, while Sarah is banned from her father's library and all the books therein, her dream of becoming a lawyer dashed. As Sarah and Handful mature, their lives take separate courses. While Handful is physically imprisoned, she maintains her independent spirit, while Sarah has difficulty living her abstract values in her actual life. Eventually, she escapes to Philadelphia and becomes a Quaker, until the Quakers prove too conservative. As Sarah's activism gives her new freedom, Handful's life only becomes harder in the Grimké household. Through her mother, Handful gets to know Denmark Vesey, who dies as a martyr after attempting to organize a slave uprising. Sarah visits less and less often, but the bond between the two women continues until it is tested one last time. Kidd's portrait of white slave-owning Southerners is all the more harrowing for showing them as morally complicated, while she gives Handful the dignity of being not simply a victim, but a strong, imperfect woman.
From the Publisher
Praise for The Invention of Wings
 
“A remarkable novel that heightened my sense of what it meant to be a woman – slave or free . .  a conversation changer.” – Oprah Winfrey, O, The Oprah Magazine
 
“Exhilarating. . .powerful. . .By humanizing these formidable women, The Invention of Wings furthers our essential understanding of what has happened among us as Americans – and why it still matters.” – The Washington Post
 
“A textured masterpiece, quietly yet powerfully poking our consciences and our consciousness . . . leaves us feeling uplifted and hopeful.” – NPR
 
“A searing and soaring story of two women bound together as mistress and slave.” – USA Today
 
“Kidd has managed to avoid both condescension and cliché, creating an unforgettable character in the slave Handful, the emotional core of her utterly engaging third novel.” – The Boston Globe  
                                                                                             
“If this isn’t an American classic-to-be, I don’t know what is. . .this book is as close to perfect as any I’ve ever read.” – The Dallas Morning News
                                                                               
“A powerful story of rebellion and heroism. . .The remarkable courage and hope found in The Invention of Wings is a reminder that we all have those wings – and tells us a lot more about how we got them.” – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
                                                                              
“Kidd has done a marvelous job of capturing two special and vibrant voices. . . I can’t recall reading a book about slavery that presented in such vivid and heartbreaking detail just what the daily life and labor felt like.” – The Minneapolis Star Tribune
                                                                      
“A total revelation. . .the book is balanced by two extraordinary women:  real-life abolitionist and feminist Sarah Grimké and the imagined handmaiden Handful, who nearly leaps off every page.” – Patrick Bass, Essence

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670024780
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/07/2014
Series:
Oprah's Book Club Series
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
75,820
Product dimensions:
6.68(w) x 9.38(h) x 1.28(d)
Lexile:
920L (what's this?)

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for The Invention of Wings

“A remarkable novel that heightened my sense of what it meant to be a woman - slave or free. . .will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to find her power and her voice. . .Sue Monk Kidd has written a conversation changer.  It is impossible to read this book and not come away thinking differently about our status as women and about all the unsung heroines who played a role in getting us to where we are."—Oprah Winfrey, O The Oprah Magazine
 
“A searing historical novel. . .these two women’s relationship with each other grows more complex while the culture shape-shifts around them.  Their bold individual requests for independence are explored by Kidd in exquisitely nuanced language that makes this book a page turner in the most resonant and satisfying of ways.”More

“Kidd hits her stride and avoids sentimental revisionism with this historical novel about the relationship between a slave and the daughter of slave owners in antebellum Charleston...Kidd’s portrait of white slave-owning southerners is all the more harrowing for showing them as morally complicated while she gives Handful the dignity of being not simply a victim, but a strong, imperfect woman.” Kirkus Reviews

“A moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery…Kidd is a master storyteller, and, with smooth and graceful prose, she immerses the reader in the lives of these fascinating women as they navigate religion, family drama, slave revolts, and the abolitionist movement.”ALA Booklist

“Monk’s compelling work of historical fiction stands out from the rest because of its layers of imaginative details in the lives of actual abolitionists…This richly imagined narrative brings both black history and women’s history to life.”Library Journal

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Meet the Author

Sue Monk Kidd is the award-winning and bestselling author of the novels The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. She is also the author of several acclaimed memoirs, including the New York Times bestseller Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. She lives in Florida.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Charleston, South Carolina
Place of Birth:
Albany, Georgia
Education:
B.S., Texas Christian University, 1970
Website:
http://www.suemonkkidd.com

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